Under GA law, 65% of each school district’s expenditures must go to Direct Instruction and the calculation and allowable expenses is spelled out by the GA Department of Education. In addition waivers can be obtained for exceeding certain student achievement levels or for “financial hardship”. It appears that APS determined that it had not met the 65% threshold for FY12 and the Board of Education authorized Superintendent Davis to request a waiver under the “financial hardship” exception. Please note that as of today, I have been unable to determine if in fact a waiver was actually requested or if the waiver was granted by the GA DOE.
However, the fact that the Board authorized Superintendent Davis to seek a “financial hardship” waiver reveals a lot. As shown in the Board Resolution, the Board of Education sought a “financial hardship” waiver “because of the current economic crisis which has resulted in a decline of revenue, cuts from the State for state programs, and cumulative cuts from the State QBE funding”. On its face, the request seems reasonable until you begin looking at the numbers.
It is important to remember that the request was made in October 2012 – three months after the end of FY12 and when all the numbers were know and not subject to major revision. So let’s look at the actual numbers to see where the “financial hardship” claimed shows up:
- “Decline of revenues” – overall, local and State revenues in total for the General Fund were up by $19 million, or 3% over the prior year. No apparent “financial hardship” here.
- “Cuts from the State for state programs and cumulative cuts from the State QBE funding” – in FY12, State funds were $13 million (10%) higher than in FY11 and $33 million (31%) higher than FY10. Again, no apparent “financial hardship” here.
So, given that the numbers do not add up to “financial hardship”, why didn’t APS meet the 65% requirement and then have to request a waiver? Based on the spending priorities adopted by the Board over the last five years (ending in FY12), the answer is very clear. Spending on Direct Instruction has come down approximately 7% – which is reasonably consistent with changes in enrollment. However, spending on all other categories – including School Administration, Operations, Transportation and General Administration – are only down 4%. And the worst offenders are School and General Administration, whose expenditures have INCREASED by approximately 1%.
As I have noted before, and it is also clear in this analysis, School and General Administration costs continue to be out of control and inconsistent with the cuts in spending for students and teachers.
And it does not appear that this issue was fixed in FY13 – will they fix it in FY14? As noted before, so far there is no indication that spending cuts will hit the seemingly favorite constituency of the Board – School and General Administrators! It is a sad state of affairs.